Weekly Feature

2018-03-07 / Front Page

Tonawanda police provide active-shooter training

Ken-Ton schools

In the wake of the recent Florida shooting, school safety and preparedness are at the forefront of conversation.

While people don’t like to imagine a tragic event happening in their community, being prepared could help save more lives, according to Town of Tonawanda police.

(See editorial on page four)

On Monday, Ken-Ton School District staff and administrators participated in active-shooter training at the Town of Tonawanda Police Department.

“We’re not immune to this type of tragedy,” said town Police Chief Jerome C. Uschold.

During the training, individuals were led through a PowerPoint presentation that covered various topics, such as preplanning, identifying potential threats and an active shooter’s motives.

There was also a demonstration of items from an active shooter kit, including how wounds can be dressed and the use of a tourniquet, a device used to stop the flow of blood through a vein or artery.

One of the main topics was the importance of communication between the Police Department and school district. There is one school resource officer in each of the two high schools.

If a teacher or staff member notices a worrisome sign involving a student, the police can take a step further and look into family history or whether a parent is a gun owner, said Capt. David Baumgartner.

Police also spoke about how there should be a designated individual who works with the on-scene commander to make the big decisions in the event of an incident.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s active shooter statistics:

• Between 1984 and 1999, there were 14 incidents with 135 dead and 168 wounded.

• Between 2000 and 2013, there were 160 incidents with 486 dead and 1,557 wounded.

• Between 2014 and 2015, there were 40 incidents with 92 dead and 139 wounded.

Uschold said shooters are learning from previous procedures a school has used and will use that to their advantage. He added that adjustments have been made to programs.

While schools have regular fire drills, Baumgartner noted that the drill could be a setup. He recommended that teachers or staff pay attention because there could be a student who is carefully watching or taking notes on how the drill is being enacted.

In relation to this kind of behavior, a common phrase that was stressed throughout the training was “If you see or hear something, say something.”

Participants also watched a video of a shooting that happened at a mall in Burlington, Washington, and police spoke about other incidents involving gun violence that have happened in the town throughout the years.

Another video showed how a variety of weapons can be concealed under clothing.

“Violence doesn’t happen out of the blue. School perpetrators usually show some behaviors of concern prior to the incident,” Baumgartner said. “Knowing these behaviors can help recognize potential problems that need to be brought to attention.”

When identifying a potential threat from a student/employee, behaviors could include increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs; repeated violations of school policies; noticeable decreased in attention to appearance/hygiene; depression or withdrawal; resistance and overreaction to changes in polices and procedures; and explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation, among others.

Baumgartner expressed the importance of knowing one’s surroundings and where emergency exits are located, whether at a school, mall or business.

According to the presentation, preplanning can involve:

• A safety audit, checking for gaps or vulnerabilities within the building.

• Identifying evacuation routes and drills.

• Designating shelter/meeting locations and sharing them with law enforcement.

• Having employee/student lists to ensure everyone is accounted for.

• Making sure evacuation plans are feasible for all (to include the physically challenged).

According to the presentation, active-shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes.

In many cases, the number of casualties drives a shooter’s cause, whatever that may be, police said.

Before law enforcement is on scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter. The training provided three options: run, fight or hide.

This could involve using an emergency exit or window, or getting to a secure location and barricading the door. If people choose to defend themselves, they can look for anything close by that can be used as a weapon.

Baumgartner said the police officer and teacher share a similar goal to students: being able to get an education and get home safely.

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